By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

In the first major fall match-up of area cross country teams and individuals, Lakin's Kayson Matthews established himself as one of the runners to beat heading into the middle of the season with an eye toward the state meet at the end of October in Wamego.

Matthews, a senior for the Broncs, showed why Saturday at the Hugoton Invitational where he outraced Heber Jimenez of Hugoton in the final mile to win by four seconds, 16:51.32 to 16:55.31, in a field that included defending Class 3A champion Holcomb and 2A powerhouse Stanton County with Eric Ruth.

"I'm very, very happy for Kayson," Lakin coach Ron Overeem said. "We put in a hard week of practice that we call our strong phase and so I thought Kayson might be a little leg weary, but he responded well."

For his effort, Matthews has been selected as The Telegram's Area Athlete of the Week.

In addition to beating Jimenez, Matthews also finished well ahead of Southwestern Heights' Enrique Sanchez (17:05.20), Mike Wolfe of Holcomb (17:08.29) and Ruth (17:13.80).

"Our area is blessed with a number of good runners so I know this meet was an important step for Kayson," Overeem said. "He's done some really intensive summer training and it's great to see it pay off."

Overeem said he thought Matthews might have made a tactical error by breaking free of the pack with Jimenez just past the halfway mark, but in the end the strategy paid off.

"He would push it, then back off, push it and back off," Overeem said. "I think at the end, when he was able to get just a little separation (from Jimenez) that he wore out the kid from Hugoton, I thought he might hang with the pack but when you feel strong, that's when you make your move and I think that's what Kayson did."

Overeem said Matthews' work ethic during the summer included running through the streets of Johnson where he worked.

"The Johnson coach (Mike Horton) said he saw Kayson running when it was 100 degrees out and he knew that he would earn everything that he got," Overeem said. "The workouts were just tremendous and it wasn't just the amount of miles, but the quality of good miles that makes the difference."